A panel monitoring the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s operation of the jail system is asking for a federal court hearing to discuss deputy use-of-force and other issues noted in a recent report critical of how the department is handling such incidents, the ACLU Foundation of Southern California announced Friday.
The panel was particularly critical of the use of “head shots,” which are “punches to the head of an inmate,” according to the report filed Thursday, April 7, in Los Angeles federal court.
The report, the 10th such document issued by jail monitors since 2016, says the panel is “no longer seeing progression towards professional management of force situations. It is time for the jail culture to stop supporting behaviors that are forbidden by policy.”
The report also alleged that the full extent of the use of “head shots” is not known because of likely failures to disclose them. An LASD representative said the department does not comment on pending litigation. The court-appointed monitoring of L.A. County jails was part of the 2014 settlement agreement in the Rosas v. Baca case in Los Angeles federal court.
“This report by the court-appointed monitors in the Rosas case decisively demonstrates that there is a serious and long-standing problem with deputies using excessive force in the Los Angeles County jails,” said Peter Eliasberg, chief counsel at the ACLU Foundation of SoCal. “Deputies brutally punch incarcerated people in the head, initiate unnecessary force rather than taking steps to avoid it and then fabricate reports to justify their actions.”
Jail monitors were also critical of the lack of accountability among deputies, supervisors and managers for alleged repeated failure to abide by use-of-force policies.
The panel, which has been monitoring LASD operation of the jails for the past six years as the result of a consent decree, says that former progress on some key issues has “plateaued” and “actually regressed on some others,” the report states. Eliasberg said violations of the consent decree have gotten “significantly worse” since Sheriff Alex Villanueva assumed office in 2018.
Filed 10 years ago by then-inmate Alex Rosas against former Sheriff Lee Baca, the lawsuit sought to end an alleged pattern of deputies’ beating inmates in Men’s Central Jail, Twin Towers and the system’s Inmate Reception Center. The suit alleged that Baca was aware of the pattern of beatings and failed to take reasonable steps to stop it.
The 2014 settlement included changes to the jails’ policies and practices and regular monitoring by a court-appointed panel.